Qatar Airways aims to have its wholly owned Saudi Arabian domestic airline up and running by early 2015.
The senior management team has been lined up. and the carrier could eventually operate new small mainline jets such as the Bombardier CSeries or Embraer E-Jet E2.
The as-yet-unnamed carrier will launch services within 18 months on domestic routes, initially flying Airbus single-aisle aircraft acquired via its parent, says Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker.
“We are in the process of applying for an AOC [air operator’s certificate] and have selected the senior management. Once we get the AOC we will start the second phase of planning: fleet planning, destinations and strategy,” he says.
The airline will be “a 100% Qatari-owned company” run by senior management recruited from outside of Qatar Airways. However, some Qatar Airways staff will be seconded to the airline, which will be headquartered in Jeddah – one of four Saudi cities Qatar Airways currently serves.
“Initially the airline will use aircraft available to Qatar Airways in our order book – A320 family aircraft – but then we will look at new types including the CSeries and Embraer E2,” says Al Baker.
“We are launching this airline to serve the people of Saudi Arabia with a quality airline and at the same time expand the business of Qatar Airways,” he adds.
The Qatari-owned airline is one of two Saudi Arabian domestic start-ups being planned to take new airline licences offered by a Saudi government tender last December. The other, SaudiGulf Airlines, is being formed by local Al-Qahtani Group. Flightglobal Pro reported in June that SaudiGulf intends to develop a premium operation and, within three years, have a fleet of around 20 aircraft, probably leased A320s.